Penn begins testing wastewater for earlier detection of COVID-19 cases in campus housing

Sep 22, 2021

Penn will start monitoring wastewater in the College House system to detect and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The University’s Environmental Health and Radiation Safety department began wastewater-based monitoring efforts as of Sept. 20 and will continue throughout the fall semester, according to an email sent to all College House residents on Sept. 19 by Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé. Wastewater monitoring can detect the virus two-to-three days prior to symptoms because of viral particles that are shed, and can identify both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, Dubé wrote. 

Though wastewater testing results “cannot be tied to an individual or a particular room or location within the College House,” Dubé wrote that the program may send a targeted request for further testing to residents if a positive signal is found.

“We don’t anticipate this changing anything for students. It’s just another data monitoring system," Director of Campus Health Ashlee Halbritter said. 

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